EU Copyright Extension

by justindburton on September 15, 2011

We linked last week to the storm that’s brewing around the upcoming deadline that will allow some US musicians to begin to claim copyright of their music from the record companies who have long held them. In the EU, a recent ruling has extended the copyright of music from 50 years to 70 years, a move that prevents several still profitable songs from entering the public domain. The recording industry is heralding the ruling as a victory for musicians, but, unsurprisingly, musicians aren’t necessarily so thrilled.

The Council of the European Union said in a statement issued after the vote — which was 17 to 8, with two abstentions — that the main reason for approving the copyright extension was to benefit performers and songwriters. The existing system “often does not protect their performances for their entire lifetime,” and “therefore some performers face an income gap at the end of their lifetimes,” the statement said. But in many cases the artists who made the original recordings back in the 1960s are not the actual owners. In recent years there has been an outpouring of biographies of, and autobiographies by, musicians from that era, including members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, in which the artists say that they were duped as youngsters into signing contracts with low royalty rates and relinquishing ownership of their own music to record or management companies.

As a result, 72 percent of the financial benefits from the new directive will accrue to record labels, according to calculations done by the Center for Intellectual Property Policy and Management at Bournemouth University in England. Of the 28 percent that will go to artists, the calculations say, most of the money will go to superstar acts, with only 4 percent benefiting musicians like those mentioned in the European Union statement.

The full New York Times article, which seems to bend against the recording industry’s rights to this music, is available here. In related news, and buying up rights to music remains a profitable business strategy.

BERLIN & LOS ANGELES– BMG Rights Management (BMG) and Spectrum Equity Investors (Spectrum) announced today the execution of a definitive agreement under which BMG will acquire Bug Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiary, Bug Music, Inc. (Bug Music), which are controlled by Spectrum and Crossroads Media, Inc. (Crossroads).

Bug Music is a leading independent music publisher. Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Los Angeles, Bug Music currently owns and/or manages copyrights, including evergreen classics and contemporary hits such as “Fever”, “What a Wonderful World”, “I Walk the Line”, “Summer in the City”, “The Real Slim Shady”, “Who Are You?”, “Under the Boardwalk” and “The Passenger”.

Bug Music’s clients include the estates of musical legends Johnny Cash, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Del Shannon and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as contemporary icons such as Iggy Pop, Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams, Wilco and The National. Bug Music also supports songwriters and artists through its Arthouse Entertainment joint venture with Kara DioGuardi, 2007 BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year and former American Idol judge.

“With the acquisition of Bug Music and its vast collection of evergreen and contemporary compositions, BMG further establishes itself as a leading music rights management company,” said Hartwig Masuch, CEO of BMG Rights Management. “We look forward to working with Bug Music’s exceptional roster of artists and songwriters.”

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